With the amount of attention Arkham Asylum’s been getting, it was on my list of things that I simply had to try out at E3. It looks amazing from the trailers and walkthrough vids, but, as we all know, trailers and walkthrough videos lie (or at least aren’t always indicative of the truth, to be a bit safer.) Is there reason for this concern? Yes and no.
Everything works. You swoop around from gargoyle to gargoyle as Batman, dispatching goons in close-quarters combat, or tying them up, or sneaking up behind them and Bat-choking them into submission. Whoosh as you swoop down, clunk as they hit the floor and you swoop back up. Whoosh-clunk. Whoosh-clunk.
What comes across from the off is the atmosphere; the thugs chatter amongst themselves based on what you’ve been up to, while the Joker makes snide remarks over the asylum’s PA as things progress. It’s all very dark and very gothic and gives a fantastic sense of character. Batman’s lack of dialogue in these sections actually builds up a great dichotomy, with the giggling, talkative psychopath Joker never shutting up, while Batman remains the strong and silent type, quietly taking down goons and inspiring terror. That’s taking us a bit far into wank-hat territory, though, so we’ll leave it there.
What leaves me worried at this stage is that it’s going to lack flow and, potentially, variety. The demo level I tried was built around knocking out all of the gangers hanging around, at which point a cutscene kicked in. If the rest of the game is much like that – puzzle rooms, with no real in-between sections, that are all about dispatching every foe around before moving onto the next one – this might not be the game I thought it was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not something I’m even remotely certain of, but the fact that the sections on display all seemed to rely on this has set a few alarm bells ringing.
For now, that’s besides the point. It’s Bat-gorgeous, it’s Bat-slick, it’s got an unprecedented sense of character and place, and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the finished version. Even with my concerns, this looks pretty damn stunning. Anticipate it.